A letter to Toby on her second Gotcha Day

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Dear Toby,

Oh how things have changed since you came along! I’ve loved birds since I was a little girl, but I never thought I’d be able to have one of my own. I was at a bit of a low point when we got you, struggling with some personal issues and I can’t say how much I needed a lift.

As unbearably cheesy as it sounds, I was lifted on your wings. Taming you gave me a whole new purpose and a reason to look forward to coming home at the end of a work day. Moreover, thinking about you made me happy any time of day. You were a unifying force of positivity for my husband and me as we worked together to make sure that you were happy, safe and comfortable. We discovered that we both loved planning your environment for maximum enrichment and spending time training you and cajoling you into being part of our flock.

I remember how scared you were when you first came home, and the utter joy I felt when you started to open up and relax. Discovering your sense of humor and your sass came shortly after, but also the realization that you felt very connected to us, and wouldn’t go anywhere that your flock didn’t want to go.

Now that you’re a very grown up girl you certainly have your own sense of self and what you’ll allow, but you’re also a good listener and so eager to learn. I love that you are calming down some and starting to perch on a finger for longer times, rather than landing and flitting off to your other important business.

I’d like to say that you’re a great big sister to Kelly, but since you tried to chew off her foot and pull out her feathers I really can’t go that far! I think she’s been good for you, and taught you loads of birdy stuff that you didn’t manage to learn at PetSmart, so I hope you keep trying to love her a bit more.

Above all I want to say thank you for bringing me light and joy. I have truly enjoyed these two years together and I look forward to many more! Thank you also for forgiving your “papa” and I for all our many mistakes, I’m sure we’ll come up with more every year 🙂

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Budgies and mirrors – our take on the great debate

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When we first got Toby I was pretty convinced that mirrors in cages were a bad idea. There’s tons of anecdotal evidence that having a mirror in the cage greatly reduces the likelihood that your new parakeet will bond with you. This is because they think the bird in the mirror is a part of their flock, and a non-tame budgie will almost always prefer the company of his own kind. Bonding with a mirror bird can mean the budgie will spend hours a day singing to the mirror, bopping heads, and potentially even attempting to feed the mirror through regurgitation.

This kind of bond can make the budgie unmotivated to ever come out of the cage and interact with you. I mean, why would he want to if his best pal can’t come out too?  It may also make the budgie more territorial and protective of his cage, if he thinks he’s defending another bird. In some extreme cases, attachment to a mirror can result in a budgie getting stuck in a feedback loop. In that instance, since the mirror budgie never breaks the loop of action and reaction, the real budgie can interact with the mirror to the detriment of their own health; potentially resulting in dehydration and starvation. Now, that’s super extreme. I would not expect that to happen to 99% of budgies with mirrors.

But, I would anticipate that the vast majority of solo budgies’ ability to be tamed would be impacted by a mirror friend. When bringing home a new budgie I would recommend leaving mirrored toys off your shopping list.

All of those warnings aside, we did recently get a mirror for Toby and a mirror for Kelly as a bit of a trial run. I’ve been feeling increasing bad for Kelly since she and Toby split up, she’s clearly lonely in the cage and I was worried about her becoming depressed about not being able to get to Toby. Since we can’t get a new roommate for Kelly until November due to my travel schedule we talked about it and decided to try adding a mirror so she wouldn’t feel as alone. Toby got one too because that’s how we roll, like giving your kids an even number of presents on the holidays, you can’t do for one without doing for the other!

I’m pleasantly surprised by the experiment so far. Neither parakeet has gotten overly attached to their mirror bird. Kelly spends some time hanging out near hers daily singing to it, but hasn’t gotten too into interacting. Toby plays with the beads on her mirror and occasionally seems interested in what she sees, but typically gets distracted in short order and wanders off to play with something else. There’s been no impact on their readiness to come out of the cage when the doors are opened, which may be because there’s a real bird to come out and play with. Neither bird has gotten more territorial than they already were about their cage either. Although to be fair they are quite territorial anyway!

It eases my mind a bit to know that while we are at work they each have a facsimile of a pal inside the cage with them. I hope that it helps them feel secure and like they are not alone. I still do think that mirrors are not for every bird, and that some may take it much more seriously than ours. If you’ve got a tame budgie that might be a bit lonely while you’re out of the house I don’t see any harm in giving a mirror a try. I would recommend watching closely to make sure it isn’t creating a problem, and be ready to pull the mirror out at the first sign of an issue that would be detrimental either mentally or physically

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An observation about adult molting budgies

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It used to be that molting was a huge deal in our house. Toby and Kelly would behave as though they were on death’s door and it would be days of very dramatic budgie behavior. Sleeping for almost 24 hours straight, being fluffed up, wanting to be snuggled when they usually hate to be touched. It was typically a very uneasy time full of trying to make them more comfortable. But, now that they have both reached maturity, I’ve made some observations about adult molting budgies.

At first it was just Toby who started to handle molting better, although I didn’t notice at the time because I was so focused on Kelly’s discomfort!  Then, once Kelly turned one and a few months her next molt was a relative breeze too.

I mean, they were still cranky and untouchable and even more inclined to bite than usual (Kelly). But, there was no puffing up, no sleeping all day and no cuddling into mamma for some comfort. I might miss that last bit, but otherwise it’s such a relief not to have the vet on speed dial just because we are laid low by pin feathers!

This leads me to believe that once a budgie has gone through a few molts and is a healthy, mature adult they are able to handle the molt a lot better. I have no idea whether it would be because the mature body is heartier or whether it’s just that they aren’t surprised by what’s going on and know that they will make it through okay.

Either way, I’m happy that it’s easier for all of us to get through it with some extra baths, misting and maybe some extra millet to lift the spirits.  This also provides a possible explanation as to why I see so many folks saying that their budgies always go through a molt like it’s no big deal!  I now think there’s a huge difference between juvenile and adult molting budgies.

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Molting Toby takes a good bath – finally!

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My flock and I live in upstate New York and we have been having the weirdest weather lately. Right at the end of August it got chilly and we had to turn our heat on for a week. As soon as the temperature dropped Toby and Kelly started on a pretty serious fall molt. Of course, by the time they were out of that molt it was mid-September and the temperature, insanely, was about 90 degrees! So, what else is a girl to do but start molting all over again.

Needless to say it’s been a solid couple of months now of feather-covered floors, sneezing humans, and itchy, cranky budgie ladies. I offer them a variety of baths on the regular, especially when they are molting, usually about twice a week. At least 50 percent of the time they completely ignore the bath, and even if they do give it notice sometimes it’s just to run through the water.  Kelly will still only take a good soak if I stand right next to her and give her constant encouragement!

Regardless of their level of interest I just keep plugging away, offering the baths and then dumping them out. Every weekend we buy a bunch of carrots with the tops still on, or some other type of green that’s good for hanging and make a hanging bath. Well, it’s a good thing we like to eat carrots because lately even that has been a total waste!

Finally Toby must have reached the depths of her molting despair and decided that a bath would be just the thing. We constructed the hanging bath and she immediately jumped on it and got the most thorough soaking she has had in months. I tried to get some good pictures but it’s tough when she’s in constant motion and puffed up like a weird broken birdy.

So, what’s the point of the post then? I guess it’s just that you have to keep trying. Even when something stops working, like the hanging bath that used to be so reliable for us. Don’t give up, keep offering them the healthy food options and the things they need, and eventually they will take you up on it. I know sometimes it might seem like a waste of your time and resources to have what you give them rejected over and over, but it matters that you do it, so don’t lose heart!

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Budgie preferred sleeping arrangements

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When you first bring home a new budgie it may be hard to believe that after a full day on their feet they would prefer to sleep standing up. But, it’s true, a comfortable budgie will grind his beak before going to sleep; then tuck one leg up underneath him and drift off. You may also see your parakeet turn his head around and rest it on his back. Here are some typically preferred sleeping arrangements for budgies.

  • Your budgie will probably not want to sleep in a soft enclosure like a Happy Hut, which is good, because they can be unsafe for several reasons. But, even a safe option like this Sea Grass Snuggle Hut may be regarded as quite unsuitable for sleeping, even if it’s fun for day time play and chewing. If you are concerned about your budgie getting cold in winter time, you can use a Bird Cage Cover if your parakeets will tolerate it, mine don’t care for being covered at all! Otherwise, you can use heated perches, like the K&H Thermo Perch or the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer.
  • What the parakeet does want, in most cases, is to sleep on the highest perch possible. Or rather, the highest thing in the cage, no matter if it’s a perch or the top of a toy.  If there’s nothing at a suitable height they will even cling to the bars of the cage in an upper corner. If your parakeet sleeps that way, try putting a perch in that space and see if he’ll get off the wall, although please don’t attempt that after bedtime!  Toby used to run through her options every night before bed and would try to sleep on top of several very unstable toys, until we dropped them all lower than the sleeping perch using Plastic Chain. If you have multiple parakeets make sure you have enough high up perch space to help avoid fighting over preferred territory. Some parakeets prefer to sleep on a Perch Swing, so you can try offering that as well. I wonder if the movement is soothing, like being on a gently swaying tree branch.
  • Make sure you also have a couple of Night Lights or even a Small Lamp to help avoid night terrors.

If you’re providing comfortable perches as the highest items in the cage, and eliminating drafts and scary dark spaces your parakeets should be great sleepers! Although there are exceptions to every rule, most parakeets are very comfortable sleeping standing up and resting one foot at a time by tucking it up into their tummies.

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Dealing with your parakeet’s flock favorites

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In my experience parakeets can be pretty fickle in all matters. One day they love spinach, the next day they won’t touch it…same deal with certain toys, perches and even favorite hangouts. It also extends to flock favorites that are humans! It can be a pretty harsh feeling when the parakeet that was your best friend one day favors someone else the next and Toby’s been playing some games with my heart lately!

Ever since Patrick clipped her nails (which she HATED) she has been a little mad at me and absolutely obsessed with him. It makes zero sense, I had nothing to do with the clipping and yet somehow earned all the blame. At any rate, if he and I are both available to her she wants to be on his shoulders at all times and completely eschews me, or even worse, acts like I’m trying to take him away from her and starts biting me.

She had been very interested in him for weeks to begin with and then he cut off all his hair, exposing his ears at all times, and now she’s even more in love!

As soon as she hears him stirring in the morning she starts flock calling to him loudly, and then once he’s in the same room the calling out intensifies. He has to greet her immediately, and if she can’t come out to be with him she goes a little nuts, yelling and flying around inside her cage.

He’s totally frustrated with the whole thing and considers it unwanted attention, which drives me nuts! He works from home a few days a week and the incessant yelling is not at all compatible with his work on the phone. Not only that, but when she’s out and on his shoulder she gets very excited and vocalizes super loud in his ear, which he finds really painful.

We have talked about it and would both understand the obsession a little better if we thought there was a “romantic” component, but she’s not in breeding condition and there’s no evidence that she’s seeking any kind of physical satisfaction.  Just a friendly shoulder and the companionship of an ear.

I’m trying hard to be chill and just ride this out, she’s been exclusively a fan of his for a few weeks at a time before, but this is stretching out into the month plus category of shunning!  She’s still a good girl for me, and if Patrick’s not around we can be friends, but all bets are off once he walks through the door. I suppose for now I have to take the friendship that I can get, and know that her affection will loop back around again to me at some point

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Watch this (cage) space – new parakeet coming in November

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I was hoping after some time apart Toby and Kelly would end up back together in a much bigger Flight Cage. That isn’t really panning out. They are much safer living separately and I think we’ve finally accepted that Toby is way too territorial to have a roommate. But, where this leaves Kelly is fairly lonely and missing Toby’s company, even if it meant her feet were going to get bitten off! Enter a new parakeet to hopefully be a new roomie for Kelly and an overall good addition to the flock.

Of course as a person who struggles with delaying gratification I would love to go out and snap up a baby boy yesterday!  Unfortunately, I have to travel quite a bit for work in the next couple of months, so November is looking like the most responsible time to get a new budgie.

We really messed up when we got Kelly by not quarantining her in a separate room from Toby.  Not only did we take a huge risk of exposing Toby to disease, but we also took away from ourselves the opportunity to spend one-on-one time boding with Kelly. As a consequence, although she likes us, she doesn’t feel the same sort of connection that Toby does. At the time it seemed much more important that Toby have company immediately, but now we feel that a proper quarantine would have helped.

When we get the new parakeet in November we are going to quarantine in the room furthest away from Toby and Kelly’s cages. I am not 100% sure whether I’m going to keep him in the Small Vision Bird Cage or the Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage, the usable space seems about the same to me, assuming the new kid isn’t a ground dweller!  That way we’ll have time to make sure he’s healthy, and also spend lots of time bonding and proving how awesome humans are. Side note: is it really bad that I have two parakeets but four cages?

I’m similarly unsure where we are going to get him from. I know that we want a boy, and I’m not opposed to getting a mature fellow who needs a new home. At this point I’m thinking we will explore our options and pick whoever “speaks” to us most!  We did that with Toby and it worked out really well. I’m also waffling back and forth on whether I want to get him from somewhere that he will come clipped. It didn’t work to our advantage on taming Kelly that she was clipped, but again, primarily because we squandered our chance to bond solo.

Anyhow there are some interesting days and shake-ups ahead so stay tuned!  Also, please keep your fingers crossed that this new parakeet will be able to bunk in with Kelly or Toby after quarantine, because I really don’t want to end up taking care of three separate cages!

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